Pangasinan redistricting proponents open to amendments
By Danny O Sagun
Dagupan City (4 June) -- Proponents of the redistricting move in Pangasinan are willing to accept amendments to a bill in Congress that will add one congressional district in the province from the present six, second district Congressman Victor E. Agbayani told a radio interview.
Agbayani said that he and third district Rep. Rachel Arenas, his co-sponsor of the bill, are open to suggestions from various concerned sectors as regard apportionment of the towns involved, population as well as geography. "Bihira yong bill na makapasa sa Kongreso at ngayon nasa Senado na yong bill, sayang yong effort kung mapabayaan lang," he said.
Earlier, Gov. Amado T. Espino, Jr. decried that he as governor as well as the members of the provincial board and the mayors had not been consulted on the redistricting plan. Clarifying that he was not against the move to increase the number of legislative districts in the province, Espino however noted that the apportionment of towns as well as population distribution were not equal, citing the case of a proposed district that would have more than 500,000 inhabitants.
If ever there would be redistricting, the governor said that the entire province should be involved. With a population of 2.7 million, Pangasinan qualifies to have up to 10 districts following the Constitutional requirement that a district should have at least 250,000inhabitants.
Agbayani, who used to be three-term governor, said his original proposal was near his predecessor's position. "Pero nabago pagdating don sa komite at plenary," he said.
The first, second and third districts are the only ones involved in the redistricting move. Congressmen from the fourth and fifth districts wanted their areas intact. "Kahit gusto man ni Congressman (Conrad) Estrella hindi puedeng sumama ang kanyang distrito," he said, citing the requirement that the towns in a district have to be contiguous but Estrella's sixth district is located east of the province.
Contrary to claims that he was only after his political advancement by including towns considered his bailiwick in the proposed second district where he is supposed to seek re-election, Agbayani said that his only objective was for the province to get more development funds with the addition of even just one district in the meantime. A district is entitled to P70 million in priority development assistance fund (PDAF) or commonly called congressional pork barrel. "Landslide naman yong panalo ko nong eleksyon," he pointed out.
He denied there were no consultations made as claimed by the governor, pointing out that all sectors concerned would be called anyway by the concerned Senate committee when the bill would have reached that stage. The proposed measure is now in the committee of Senator Benigno Aquino, who reportedly deferred action on it in a recent hearing which Espino and members of the provincial board attended.
Agbayani said he will continue to have dialogues with the affected sectors particularly with first district Rep. Arthur Celeste who reportedly backed out in the redistricting plan. "Kung papalag si Congressman Celeste, wala na kasi kulang yong dalawang distrito lang to meet the requirement on population," he said referring to his second district and Arenas' third.
He said there is yet enough time to push thru with the move. (PIA Pangasinan) [top]